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Create a mobile App in 2 Weeks with Xamarin

Every so often, here at Elegant IT we challenge ourselves with a new bit of technology, we pick the technology we want to work with and come up with an idea that allows us to use it, we then see what we can achieve with that technology in 2 weeks (10 working days), This year it was the turn of Xamarin.downloadxam

Xamarin is a language that allows developers to write mobile Apps for multiple platforms from a single project, thus making App development and deployment easier, cheaper and faster…..well that is what we hoped.

So with our chosen technology defined, we needed an idea, on the 8th of January 2018 we came up with the a simple idea for a golf App that basically tells you want shot to hit when you are in the driving range, the idea is that it would be used to make golfers play shots they weren’t comfortable with or give them a sequence of shots to play as a warmup before a round of golf.

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We now had the technology selected and the simple idea, now for the goals, what did we think we could achieve in 2 weeks? It was during this decision process that I remember an article header from a post on LinkedIn by Richard Branson, saying that there is a belief that to get a business up and running takes a year and Mr Branson disagreed…..so I thought “right, 2 weeks from Paper to full production” and the challenge was on!

With technology, idea and goals all set we started work, we spec’d out the App on our office whiteboard and started the development work, at the same time we also came up with company names, logos and started to make real progress really quickly, by the time day 2 ended we had, created a Xamarin template, designed a logo, purchased some domains through godaddy.com and some stock image through Shutterstock and it was starting to come together. (www.DWC-Golf.com)WhiteboardDRT

Days 3-6 were heavy development days, getting used to xaml (the language of Xamarin) and how everything hangs together was an steep learning curve but by the end of the week we had the core features of the app in place and were ready for some testing….this however required two USBC cables ( which were whisked to us from amazon) and a bit of reading around how to put your android phone in to developer mode and suddenly we had an app working on our phones…much testing was then performed (including a live test at a driving range……people look at you when you have you phone speaking shots to you), some bugs were found and fixed, some of the look and feel of the App was change but by the end of the 16th of January, day 7 of the challenge, we had deployed the app to google play store, a process which was relatively straight forward.

Day 8 we decided that most apps these days are either paid for or free but have Ad’s, so we set to work enabling ad banners on out app, which with a bit of reading and trial and error finally worked, this update was then published to the Play store. We then felt that the app from a development point of view was complete.

A facebook page and a web site were created and that left only 1 task remaining… the Apple AppStore….

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Strap

Day 9 we started investigating how to deploy to the App Store, the Xamarin solution had automatically created the iOS project so we had what we needed to get it going….or so we thought….

The first thing we discovered was that we needed a Mac to deploy to the App Store….we didn’t have a Mac and Google said it was going to cost at least £400 to get one…. We then read an article about Xamarin Live Player and how that can be used to test iOS apps from visual studio…..great we though and proceeded to set it up….turns out live player is very much in development and never worked for us, despite enrolling on the testing program and getting the latest version…

Looking down the barrel of £400+ and limited time left on the challenge we thought that the App Store was out of reach for us, we then however found a site that lets you rent Macs and use them over RDP, for much less than buying a Mac. We signed up with limited expectations and discovered that this setup was perfect, it was designed for developers, it had everything we needed, withinSimulator Screen Shot - iPhone 8 Plus - 2018-01-23 at 09.42.26 a few minutes we had our App running on an iPhone simulator.

Day 10, the final day, we made some changes based on the test we had run using the iPhone and iPad simulators, we got it to the stage where we were happy with it and it was ready for testing on the Apple TestFlight system (allows you to alpha/beta test on actual devices), this is where things got interesting again, apart from having to pay for an apple Developers account, we also had to create more images than were required for the Android deployment, so we started down the path of fulling the mandatory requirements for the App Store, after a few hours we had achieve these and managed to create a build that we then transferred to the Mac and tried to publish to the App Store…we then ran in to signing issues……more reading, head scratching and trial and error later we finally got the app in to the test flight system and running on an iPad.

 

After some testing we were happy with the iOS build and submitted it for approval in to the App Store, it was late on day 10 by this point and sleep was calling, however as the Android process was automated, we weren’t worried and assumed that the next morning it would be there and ready to go….it wasn’t it had failed the review process as it needed more screen shots of the app… it turns out the Apple review process has a manual element and if you fail the process you have to resubmit and wait up to 48 hours.

 

Day 11….one day over the target, the app was resubmitted and the following day it was approved.

 

So while we were a few days over in the challenge, we did (in two weeks ish)

 

 

Overall it was an enjoyable challenge and hopefully one that leads us in to making more Apps in the future.

 

Website: www.DWC-Golf.com

App Store: Driving Range Trainer

Google Play: Driving Range Trainer

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Free Software Development Design Document for Northants chamber members

If you have a software development project in mind, either a brand new system, replacement or update of an existing system, Elegant IT will work with you to create a specification document that you can use to get a quote on the cost of doing the work.

All too often companies employee developers to do a project without fully understanding the exact requirements or having a specification for the developer to deliver against, this can lead to projects over running and costs spiraling out of control.

If you would like to take advantage of this offer or find out more please get in touch on info@elegant-it.co.uk

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Real Time Visual Management Systems to manage tasks

A recent project undertaken by Elegant IT presented us with a challenge, the requirements were to produce a web based tool that allow multiple users to connect and share tasks between each other within a corporate network.

This kind of visual management concept was something we have come across before but combining it with a really time task sharing was sometime new to us.

Solution: Using a combination of MVC, Java script and signalR technology we were able to create a solution that fulfilled the brief and performed well.

Outcome: The system was installed and successfully run, user feedback was good and the real time concept made a massive difference to productivity and time taken to address tasks.

For more information about how Elegant IT ltd can help you with your software development project, please contact us at info@elegant-it.co.uk

Web App output for a desktop system

Virtual Whiteboard Web

One of our core software solutions, Virtual Whiteboard, has become more and more web based over the last few years, to the point where a webapp version was required to give us the competitive edge needed to provided the best Visual Management solutions, so the task to recreate the proven concepts used in Virtual whiteboard desktop and RDP version was under taken.

Solution: Using MVC, Javascript and signalR technology we were able to create a webapp version of the system that allow users to logon, view, edit and upload documents as well as join remote meetings, all this and it uses the same underlying database as the Desktop/RDP Virtual Whiteboard mean they talk seamlessly to each other.

To host this we used Microsoft Azure, which gave us the reliably backbone needed to achieve this solution.

Outcome: The webapp version of virtual whiteboard takes the system to mobile devices, remote PCs and tablets, making it very flexible.

The remote nature of the system also allows users working from home or who are out of the office to connect to updated documents/tasks that they are responsible for it.

For more information about Virtual Whiteboard Web please contact us or our partners eVMT

Visual Management

Virtual Whiteboard Web App

Cloud hosted HR Case Management System drives down costs and increases efficiency

HR Case management is an area that gets over looked but is critical to managing a HR departments work load. Failure to have a robust system to deal with requests to the HR department can leave your company open to increased costs and risk.

Traditionally these types of systems are sold as add-ons to larger systems which can make them very expensive, Elegant IT’s Case management system allows for a standalone system to exist that provides all the functions of the larger system add-ons at a fraction of the cost.

Our approach is to use our in house HR consultants to guide you through the system and customising the system to your processes to make it as easy as possible to introduce this system within your business.

This unique approach allows for a “Right first time” solution to be implemented which minimises costs and give you exactly what you want.

For more information about how HR Case management can help you visit http://www.elegant-it.co.uk/software/elegant-hr-case-management/ or email Info@elegant-it.co.uk

Bespoke Manufacturing Application, converted to the Microsoft Azure Platform.

Based on a recent trip to the Microsoft build conference, the Elegant IT development team have embraced the use of the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, one of our latest projects was to convert one of our existing customers from a standalone desktop application in to a fully Azure hosted web application. The process was extremely smooth and provided the customer with a solution that exceeded expectations.

Is this the future of application development and deployment? Probably… this method was simple, fast and flexible. Changes to the customers install were easy and instantaneous and support tasks were dealt with quickly and without the cost of a onsite visit.

Overall a good solution that makes everyone happy, below are the detail of the application, that went through the migration process.

Industry: Pharmaceutical

Requirement: A leading pharmaceutical company wanted to be able to monitor batches of vaccines during the manufacturing process and identify any issues that arose to prevent them from becoming major problems and ruining the batch.

Solution: Elegant IT created a batch tracking system for the production and quality management departments. It allows each batch of vaccine to be added to the system along with a timeline to show what actions need to happen and when for that batch. The system then shows the management team where the batch is in its life-cycle and any issues that are affecting the batch.

The application was written as a web app, give the customer access to the data they need from any device any where in the world.

Outcome: The batch tracker gives alerts around each stage of the process then the manufacturing engineer physically checks on the batches and updates the system. A visual management system highlights issues before they become major problems using green amber and red warnings. Production and Quality Managers can take action to prevent the batch being ruined.

The batch tracker system connects with the Elegant IT Virtual Whiteboard to allow transparent communication of where the issues arise. It provides a meeting format or single interactive platform to create corrective actions and drive down the number of errors.

“The system developed for us has given us a view of what’s going on in our production facility that we’d never seen before. We now have a real time picture of each batch in the manufacturing process: we know which issues are costing us the most time and causing the most waste.”

Bespoke Visual System to Track Batch Manufacturing

Industry: Pharmaceutical

Requirement: A leading pharmaceutical company wanted to be able to monitor batches of vaccines during the manufacturing process and identify any issues that arose to prevent them from becoming major problems and ruining the batch.

Solution: Elegant IT created a batch tracking system for the production and quality management departments. It allows each batch of vaccine to be added to the system along with a timeline to show what actions need to happen and when for that batch. The system then shows the management team where the batch is in its lifecycle and any issues that are affecting the batch.

Outcome: The batch tracker gives alerts around each stage of the process then the manufacturing engineer physically checks on the batches and updates the system. A visual management system highlights issues before they become major problems using green amber and red warnings. Production and Quality Managers can take action to prevent the batch being ruined.

The batch tracker system connects with the Elegant IT Virtual Whiteboard to allow transparent communication of where the issues arise. It provides a meeting format or single interactive platform to create corrective actions and drive down the number of errors.

“The system developed for us has given us a view of what’s going on in our production facility that we’d never seen before. We now have a real time picture of each batch in the manufacturing process: we know which issues are costing us the most time and causing the most waste.”

Bespoke Visual System to Track Contract Errors

Industry: Transport

Requirement: The commercial department of a large metropolitan transport organisation wanted to track and minimise contract errors, but the project was deemed too difficult by its in-house developers.

Solution: Elegant IT created a bespoke application that tracks live contracts to ensure that all of the necessary information is complete and up to date. For example, contract reference, description, relevant contacts, framework, reviews, expiry date, etc. The system takes an Excel file that is generated automatically by the company’s internal contract system and imports it into a database, which records the issues then tracks them until completion.

Outcome: The system allows managers to see the areas in which they are experiencing the most errors, and how long it takes to resolve them.

The system connects with the Elegant IT Virtual Whiteboard to allow transparent communication of where the issues are. This management tool also provides a meeting format or interactive platform to drive down the number of errors by creating corrective actions.

“Elegant IT’s solution allows us to track and manage issues that have plagued the department for years. Their ‘out of the box’ thinking allows a solution to be put in place that has made a positive impact on our day to day operations.”

Cloud computing – an introduction

The term cloud computing is almost as ubiquitous as the grey clouds in an autumn sky. But what is cloud computing? And what does it mean for your business?

What is cloud computing?

In its simplest terms, cloud computing means storing data and programs on a remote server, provided by a third party, and accessing them using the internet. This is instead of storing and accessing data and programs on your computer’s own hard drive or your company server.

The cloud has become a metaphor for the internet, and cloud also encompasses business services such as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). SaaS is an application to which a business subscribes then accesses over the internet (for example, Microsoft Office 365). The business does not own the software but pays for its use, maintenance and all updates by a monthly or annual fee.

Advantages and disadvantages

One of the advantages of cloud computing is that there are no upfront capital costs of purchasing servers and creating a network infrastructure, and there are no maintenance or update costs for the equipment and some of the software. The capital costs are replaced by monthly operating costs, and you only pay for what you use. Cloud computing can also be scaled up (or down) quickly and easily, but this flexibility comes at a cost.

However, most medium-sized businesses that have been established for more than a few years have already invested in their own infrastructure. It is often much more cost-effective to maintain what they already have, than to drop it in favour of using cloud-based applications and data storage.

In addition, cloud computing requires a reliable, high speed internet connection. Although this is available to the majority of businesses, there is a greater dependency on service providers and the risk that a service may stop being supported. It is also important to know where the servers are located. We use secure UK-based data centres so that we can be sure that they meet the needs of British businesses.

Hybrid solution

We have found that, for many of our clients, a hybrid solution suits them best. It may be more cost-effective to use a hosted (cloud) email system, which can deliver a reliable, secure service, than running your own email server. However, other systems and aspects of data storage and access are often better served by your own company infrastructure. Each business is different and we use our experience of what we have seen to work well (or not so well) in different business scenarios to help you make decisions for your business. Cloud technology is evolving all the time, so we continually reassess the options for our clients. If you’d like to know more about which cloud solutions are appropriate for your business, then please contact us.

Windows 10 – to upgrade or not to upgrade?

The arrival of Windows 10 was met with a renewed sense of excitement after the less than stellar reception for Windows 8, and the new operating system goes a long way to resolving the problems of its predecessor.

Windows 10 is available as a free upgrade to current users of Window 7 and Windows 8.1. We’re using it here at Elegant IT and some of our clients are using it too – all without major problems. There’s still plenty of time to decide, as we understand that the free upgrade will be available until July 2016.

Windows 10 can be described as a hybrid between Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, switching style according to the device being used: desktops return to a Windows 7 style of design complete with a start menu, while tablets use the Windows 8 design with touch features and live tiles. The Charms bar has gone (on the desktop), replaced by a more robust Settings section that is easily accessed from the Start menu.

Windows 10 offers new Universal apps, which means that you can purchase an app once and then have it available on all of your Windows devices. There are also clever features such as the Cortana Virtual Assistant, which is now available on laptops and PCs with Windows 10, as well other Windows devices (phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, hybrids).

Windows 10 is (and will be) constantly updated, so if you’re thinking of upgrading, then January 2016 would be a good time. This is six months after the release date and high volumes of devices pre-installed with Windows 10 are likely to be sold in the US in November and December. This is in addition to the estimated 100 million devices which have already been upgraded, and it means that the operating system will have had a thorough testing and the kinks ironed out by then.

If you’d like to know more or you’re running an older version of Windows, or using older hardware then contact us to discuss the implications of upgrading.

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